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  • Why Aren't These Children in School?

    These Andean children are looking through a window into their schoolhouse. I'm inside; they are not. Seems like it should be the other way around, but this particular day is not a school day. It is an extremely rainy day. Just a few miles from here, the trail ascends to a 15,000 foot pass where it's snowing fiercely. Our guide doesn't want us to cross in those conditions. He negotiated with the small village to let our group of adventure travelers use the one-room schoolhouse until the weather breaks. For the children, this is a novelty.

    I saw a lot of children while hiking in the Peruvian Andes. Most of them were also hiking, but they were hiking to school. Some people live within the bounds of a small village, but many families are isolated, quite distant from the school. The children I saw seemed to enjoy hiking several miles—big wide smiles on their faces. But perhaps they were smiling because I and my companions were an odd-looking group of tall people with hiking sticks, funny hats, and big boots.

    Peru education attendance:

    • Ages 6 - 11: 92% ages 6-11
    • Ages 12-16: 66%
    • Literacy--96% in urban areas, 80% in rural areas.

    What about water? See Peru: Water Isn't for Everyone. A few excerpts . . .

    "Water is not only in short supply in Peru, but it is also poorly distributed in relation to the population. Seventy percent of the people live in the arid strip along the Pacific Ocean, where just 1.8 percent of the country's freshwater supply is found."

    "According to the Oxfam report, more than half of Peru's rivers with highest demand for use are severely polluted: the Chira, Piura, Llaunaco, Santa and Huallaga rivers in the north; the Chillón, Yauli and Mantaro in the central region; and the Chili River in the south."

  • Bintu's Story

    Bintu Kamara lives in Myla Village, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is located between Guinea and Liberia, on the western coast of Africa. For only $7,500 US, 700 children can now get clean drinking water. Read how this has changed her life. Then donate to Blue Planet Run Foundation to help fund another project like this. You can make a difference.

    "I am Bintu Kamara and I am an 11 years old girl living at Lower Allentown near the Faith-in-Christ Primary School where I attend class 5."

    "I'm the youngest of 7 children, all living in the same house. I used to fetch water from a stream very far away and a steep slope - an every-morning chore before I go to school. Every child in the neighbourhood had to do so before and after school. We also had to fetch water for the school to provide drinking water."

    "The stream is also used for laundry and other purposes, so it is dirty. The stream is polluted by a lot of garbage. It is not surprising though that so many people in this community so often have problems with their health, especially in the days when there is a cholera outbreak."

    "A few weeks ago the rainwater harvesting tank at our school was completed, and so the situation changed. For laundry and bathing we still go down to the stream, but for drinking I now have pure and clean water from the tank. By that we don’t have to take the dangerous and straining way to the stream upon us so often every day. Everyone in the community pays a little to a committee, which maintains the pump, the tank and the supply of water."

    "I still have to go to the stream for laundry and bathing like all my neighbours. However, our health is much better now and we have more energy and time for school work."

  • Elena and Zaqueo's Story

    Zaqueo and Elena are grateful that their school's hand washing station will be repaired soon, as only two taps are working properly. They also comment on the insufficient hand washing possibilities for the pre-primary children (ages 4-6) – they can not reach the taps because they are too high for them and therefore rarely wash their hands after using the toilets or before eating. Furthermore, they also drew our attention to the leaking flush toilets for the pre-primary students causing the students clothing and feet to get soaked. (Photo courtesy of Blue Planet Run.)

    Elena and Zaqueo thank Team Blue and the children in the US for their help.

    Elena Brito Kujutch is 13 years old and a 6th grade student at the “Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Kanaquil” in the village of Kanaquil. She lives together with her grandmother and her aunt in Kanaquil, her parents and her 5 brothers and sisters (3 younger and 2 older) live in the village of Tzalbal, about 10km away in direction of the municipal capital Nebaj. After completing 3rd grade in Tzalbal she moved to lived with her grandmother in Kanaquil. They share a one-room house made of wood, with an earth floor and a separate kitchen. The kitchen is equipped with an improved stove and the house counts with its own water tap and latrine.

    Elena enjoys studying very much and her favorite subject is Mathematics. After completing the 6th grade she would like to continue studying in secondary school to become a teacher later on.

    Elena’s typical school day starts at 6am, when she gets up to help with preparing breakfast. School starts at 7:30am and during the 10am till 10:30am recess she takes care of the mixtamal (cooked maize ready to get ground) and takes it to the mill. She says she can do that because she lives very close to the school. School ends at 12:30 and she heads home to have lunch and to do her homework. Some days she meets with her friends to play.

    Elena’s classmate Zaqueo Emeterio Raymundo Lunes is also 13 years old. He has two older brothers and two older sisters. His grandparents are already dead. He and his family live in a traditional adobe house with a cement floor. They share one room and have a separate kitchen. The kitchen has no stove, cooking takes place over an open fire. The house is connected to the local water system and has its own washing station (pila) and counts with a latrine.

    Zaqueo also likes studying a lot and would like to continue after having finished primary school. His favorite subject is also Mathematics and he would like to become a bank accountant.

    His school day normally starts at 6:30am, he has breakfast and walks to school. After school and lunch he and his brothers usually help his father in the corn field (milpa). Whenever he has some spare time, he plays football with his friends.

  • Aren't all children clever?

    A few years ago I travelled to Rwanda for an encounter with mountain gorillas. The drill is the same for all tourists. You stay in the Gorilla's Nest Hotel or similar modest lodging, your designated escort picks you up in the morning and drives you to the national park, and you get assigned to a group of 8 tourists.

    Your group walks with a park guide and an armed escort to a specific troupe of gorillas. They make a big deal out of having to find the gorillas, but in reality they track the troupes pretty well, so chances are you will get a close encounter with gorillas. It's awesome!

    This adventure is supposed to protect the gorillas from poaching and contribute to the economy of the country. At $350 per person per encounter, gorillas bring in quite a lot of money. I think it's helping the gorillas, but I'm not so sure about the people.

    The road from the hotel to the park is extremely rough, sort of like the rock bed of a river, only dry. The countryside along the way is extremely lush, with rich volcanic soil that's planted with a variety of produce. It seemed like paradise to me until I noticed that the fields are tilled by women using hand implements. That's right, no John Deere tractors here. I didn't even see oxen or horses. Women who aren't tilling can be seen walking on the side of the road, barefoot, carrying large loads of potatoes and other produce on their heads to market, or carrying large vessels to fetch water. No running water here.

    The men, by the way, all seemed to have shoes on and they weren't doing any obvious hard labor like the women.

    The children are what really tore at my heart. Lots of children standing by the side of the road, staring at our jeep. Some with open hands, but most just looking. So many had sores on their skin and unclear eyes indicative of disease. "What about schooling? Shouldn't these children be in school?" I asked our driver. He said yes, there was schooling for children, but only for the clever ones.

    Clever? Aren't all children clever? Shouldn't all children be given a chance at education?


    Orphans of Rwanda says that more than 400,000 children are out of school.

    UNICEF says:

    • Of the children who enroll in school, half do not complete the primary cycle (through 6th grade).
    • Some 100,000 orphans live in child-headed households.
    • Close to half of all children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
    • More than 80 per cent of all diseases that affect children are water-borne.
  • Play, Pump, and Drink

    Playing and pumping water happen at the same time with the PlayPump. It's a simple idea. The PlayPump looks like a "merry-go-round" but it's really a water pump. When kids ride on it, the PlayPump pumps water into a storage tank that's big enough to serve 2,500 people water. So far, 1,000 of there pumps have been installed in Africa. Usually a PlayPump is installed near a school, where there is a ready supply of children! (Adults can spin it too!)

    Each system costs $14,000 to install and get running. Africa needs thousands more of these pumps, so PlayPump is looking for people to help raise money. Become a Water Hero! Sponsor a PlayPump Water System.

  • Tshepang Means Have Hope

    A few months ago I met an incredible woman whose story I'd like to share with you.

    Imagine being between the ages of 12 and 18. (Maybe you already are, so that part's easy!) Now imagine you are also the oldest member of your household. That's right, living in a home with no parents AND responsible for your younger brothers and sisters. Sounds unimaginable. 

    But wait. There's more. Your home is a shack. You don't have a toilet or running water. No water, no electricity—You don't have a washing machine. You struggle to go to school but the chores to take care of your sisters and brothers make it difficult to do your homework. That and the dim candle light. This might even be your home in Roddepoort. (Photo courtegy of the Tshepang program.)

    That's the way it is for many children in South Africa in the Roodepoort slums. (Roodepoort is a city in South Africa.)

    The situation seems hopeless, doesn't it?

    In March 2005, in another part of town—a richer one with proper houses—Susan Rammekwa was unhappy with her job. She was a social worker and tired of a job that kept her in the office. She wanted to do more to reach people in need. So she quit her job.

    Susan ventured into the slums of Roodepoort to help its children. She set up a place that had water and electricity. She cashed in her pension to buy food for the children. She used her last pay cheque to get a stove. By the end of the first year, more than 80 children were going to Susan's program for a meal, to wash up, and to do their homework. She also taught the children life skills and encouraged them to play games and tell stories.

    She named the program Tshepang. That means "Have Hope." Here she is with her children.

  • What's it like to be a 13 year old in Ethiopia?

    Thirteen year old Elmas Kassa lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    "I collect water four times a day in a 20 litre clay jar. Its hard work." Elmas Kassa said. "I have never been to school as I have to help my mother so we can earn enough money. Our house doesn't have a bathroom so I wash once a week and go to the toilet down by the river behind my house. I usually go with my friends as we're supposed to go after dark when people can't see us."

    This story is from the WaterAid website. Visit them to find out more and to donate.

  • What's it like to be a 4 year old in Tanzania?

    Four year old Amina carries five litres of water back to her home in Kibaya Town in Tanzania. The container is very heavy and she has to keep putting it down on the floor as she finds it hard to carry. Fortunately she doesn't have far to walk.

    Carrying water was described as Amina's education as she was learning to be a woman. In Tanzania, as in many developing countries, women and children are responsible for collecting their family's water and children often start this job at a very early age.

    There are three schools in her town but education is not free and many poor families like Amina's can't afford to send their children to school.

    This story is from the WaterAid website. Visit them to find out more and to donate.

  • What's it like to be a 10 year old in Bangladesh?

    Ten year old Yasmin Akhtar takes part in this hygiene education lesson in Bhaterkhil, Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of WaterAid /Jim Holmes.)

    In this lesson children play a game where blue powder is sprinkled on to a football. The children then pass the football to one another and the blue powder is spread from child to child. This game shows how diseases and germs can be easily passed form one person to another.

    Games like these are just one of the many ways that WaterAid teaches children about safe hygiene practises. Other methods include puppet shows, plays, picture cards and books.